Ministry and Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries 2012 Strategic Plan

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

12 March 2012
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), in the presence of the Minister and Deputy Minister of Agriculture, briefed the Committee on its Strategic Plan for the period 2012/13 to 2016/17. The Department noted that its operations were divided across six programmes of Administration and Resources allocation; Agriculture Production; Health and Food Safety; Food Security and Agrarian Reform; Economic Development, Trade and Marketing; Forestry and Natural Resources Management; and Fisheries Management. Projects and aims under each of those were outlined in the attached presentation. DAFF also noted that the agricultural sector faced various challenges, which included food price volatility, anti-competitive behaviour impacting on food security, lack of extension services in the forestry and fisheries sector, the cross-cutting nature of the work, the lack of guaranteed markets for products produced by smallholder farmers, and the slow progress in increasing production efficiency. Increases that had been noted were largely limited to a few successful farmers. Transformation in the entire sector remained a challenge, due to differences in interpretation and implementation. There was inadequate monitoring and enforcement around the sustainable use of natural resources. However, the DAFF had targets to raise the number of smallholder farmers to 250 000 by 2014, and the number of employees on commercial farms to 800 000 by 2014. The DAFF aimed to place 300 000 households in smallholder schemes by 2015, create 145 000 jobs in agro-processing by 2020, and create 5 520 jobs in the Community Works Programme by 2014. It aimed to rehabilitate 3.2 million hectares of agricultural land by 2014, and to improve abalone, hake and lobster stocks. The DAFF also aimed to intensify work and engagement with provincial departments and stakeholders.

Members felt that there was too much emphasis on smallholder farmers, and too little recognition given to commercial farmers, and asked what incentives were given to black farmers, and how smallholder farmers were defined. They questioned if the DAFF had any controls over budgetary allocations to provincial departments, raised concerns about governance at
Onderstepoort Biological Products, questioned the suggestion that communities should be encouraged to consume anchovy, and wondered whether DAFF had sufficient resources and equipment to stop poaching. The issue of tractors was raised again, and DAFF admitted that it had no set policy on how to manage the tractors. They asked about the plans for the agricultural colleges and changes to the syllabus, asked why increases in employees on commercial farms did not appear in the strategic plan. Members noted that the Animal Health Act had still not been promulgated and questioned what DAFF was doing to amend legislation, including the Liquor Act, and the progress on this. They also asked about detection rate for animal disease, raised concerns about rumours on marketing of products (which the Chairperson ruled would not be allowed), asked about control of fisheries vessels and asked about the Sekunjalo Holdings case. They asked the budget, and likely impact of Marine Coastal Management’s move to Pretoria, and also questioned the vacancies. Two Members (from the DA and ANC) commented that they did not think the targets were realistic, or could be met, and Members also questioned the spending on aquaculture, the low rate of transformation in the Department, the infrastructure linking to new harbours, cotton crop plans, establishment of rural fisheries, and monitoring mechanisms. The Deputy Minister was asked exactly what role he played, and Members raised concerns that he was rarely in attendance at the Committee meetings. The Minister addressed the Committee briefly, to emphasise some points made earlier, noted that the Department was not setting idealistic targets, an that the practice of applying for rollovers must cease. She noted that DAFF was discussing labour law amendments to attract foreign investment, commented that reduction in electricity would benefit farmers, and that the Department of Higher Education and Training was dealing with all higher education colleges. The Chairperson called for written responses to unanswered questions and voiced concerns on other outstanding reports that must still be submitted to the Committee.

Meeting report

Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Strategic Plan 2012/13 to 2016/17
Mr Langa Zita, Director General, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, tabled the Strategic Plan of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF or the Department) for the period 2012/13 to 2016/17, and noted that this plan complied with the
guidelines provided by National Treasury and the Department of Public Service and Administration.

The main challenges facing the agricultural sector were described as f
ood price volatility, and anti-competitive behaviour that impacted on national food security, inadequate extension service, especially in Forestry and Fisheries, the inter-dependency on other departments and cross-governmental coordination, the fact that there were no guaranteed markets for products produced by small holders, and the slow progress in increasing production efficiency. He noted that although profitability had increased, this was at slower rates, and was attributed to a few farmers who had been able to survive global market and financial challenges. Transformation in all three sectors  of agriculture, forestry and fisheries remained a challenge, due to differences in interpretation, and implementation. There was inadequate monitoring and enforcement around the sustainable use of natural resources

Mr Zita outlined the policy and programme interventions. DAFF contributed directly to two government outcomes, in relation to establishment of v
ibrant, equitable, sustainable rural communities contributing towards food security, and in relation to the need to protect and enhance environmental assets and natural resources. Agriculture was also linked to the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP2), the New Growth Path, and National Planning Commission Vision 2030.

He spoke to the aim to increase the number of smallholder farmers from 200 000 to 250 000 by 2014. He added that, given the continued success of commercial farming, the number of employees on commercial farms should rise from 780 000 to 800 000 by 2014. The DAFF aimed to
place 300 000 households in smallholder schemes by 2015, create 145 000 jobs in agro-processing by 2020, and to create 5 520 jobs in Community Works Programme Plan by 2014. It hoped to have rehabilitated 3.2 million hectares of agricultural land by 2014. In the fisheries sector, it was aiming for 10% improvement in recovery of targeted fish stocks such as abalone, hake and West Coast Rock Lobster by 2014.

Mr Zita listed the six programmes of DAFF, which were 1: Administration and Resources allocation
, 2: Agriculture Production, Health and Food Safety, 3: Food Security and Agrarian Reform, 4: Economic Development, Trade and Marketing, 5: Forestry and Natural Resources Management and 6: Fisheries Management. For each of these programmes, he outlined the main aims and programmes and gave an indication of particular focus areas (see attached presentation for more details).

He concluded by saying that the Department would intensify its work with the provincial departments of Agriculture, would intensify engagements with stakeholders and other government departments, support Parliament in the finalisation of Bills, and intensify oversight work in all district municipalities.

Discussion
Mr S Abram (ANC), noted that there was too much emphasis on smallholder farmers, but too little recognition given to commercial farmers.

Mr Zita responded by saying that there were a lot of activities in the Department that would benefit commercial farmers, and said that he was intending, after this meeting, to hold another meeting with a number of commercial farmers; this was done routinely.

Mr Abram asked what incentives were offered for black farmers that had been in the sector since apartheid years. He asked how the Department defined a “smallholder” farmer.

Mr Zita defined a smallholder farmer as someone who farmed less than 50 hectares and produced for the market, not primarily for own consumption.

Mr Abram wondered whether the DAFF had any controls over the budgetary allocations to the provincial departments.

Mr Zita said that DAFF met monthly with the provincial departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries every month.

Mr Abram also raised concerns about governance issues at Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP).

Mr Zita agreed with Mr Abram that this needed to be attended to and assured the Committee that DAFF was taking steps to improve the governance at OBP.

Mr R Cebekhulu (IFP) raised concern about the pelagic fisheries and asked why it was suggested that anchovy should be consumed.

Mr Zita responded that saying this was one good way to address issues of hunger. He noted that this species was consumed in countries such as Peru, and the fact that it was not widely consumed in this country was largely as a result of cultural issues.

Mr Cebekhulu asked if the DAFF had sufficient resources and enough equipment to stop abalone poaching.

Ms Sue Middleton, Acting Deputy Director General: Fisheries Management, DAFF, responded that the Department had launched anti-poaching vessels, and high speed boats, to chase poachers.

Mr Cebekhulu was also concerned about the poor maintenance of tractors, and wondered if the DAFF had enough information on the challenges around the tractor issue and use.

Mr Zita said that DAFF had no set policy on how the tractors would managed. He said his personal suggestion was that rural people should own or rent these tractors, which would mean that the Department would make savings on maintenance costs. In addition, this would boost the asset value of poor farmers.

Mr Cebekhulu wanted to know whether the name changes of the Agricultural Colleges would also mean a change in syllabus.

Mr Mkhululi Mankazana, Deputy Director-General: Food Security and Agrarian Reform, DAFF, responded that the new institutes would carry a bigger work programme, and cater for a wide range of stakeholders. The baseline criteria for admission to the colleges would be matric. The colleges would also run courses that would enable the Departmental staff to upgrade their qualifications.

Ms A Steyn (DA) wanted to know why the increase of employees in commercial farms was not outlined in the strategy of the Department.

Mr Zita noted that the Department was building on available resources. Furthermore he stated that there was a need to ask commercial farmers as to what they expected from the Department. He also said that the large commercial farmers were importing too much, and there was a need to identify gaps in the local market, so that these imports could be produced locally.

Ms Steyn also asked why the Department was not using the 2002 legislation in relation to animal production.

Dr Bothle Modisane, Chief Director: Animal Production and Health, DAFF, explained that the Animal Health Act had not been promulgated.

Ms Steyn voiced concern that the DAFF did not seem to have done much to amend the legislation, for instance, the Liquor Act.

Dr Modisane revealed that DAFF was presently attending the drafting of an amendment Bill.

Ms Steyn asked about the reaction time on outbreak of diseases.

Dr Modisane stated that the detection time for high risk diseases was seven days. He said that testing of other animals was done when the animals were moved.

Ms Steyn raised a question about a rumour in the media concerning the marketing of agricultural products.

The Committee Chairperson interjected to state that the Portfolio Committee should not discuss unsubstantiated rumours.

Mr P van Dalen (DA) asked Dr Pieter Mulder about the progress of the different pieces of pending legislation of the Department.

Dr Pieter Mulder, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, explained that an external contractor was appointed to look into the proposed legislation for the Department.

Mr van Dalen asked who would control the fisheries vessels in the following months.

Ms Middleton responded by saying that plans were in place for the control of vessels, and added also that the DAFF was involved in the training of military veterans.

Mr van Dalen raised another question about alleged irregularities in the awarding of a contract to Sekunjalo Holdings, to combat illegal fishing on South African coastlines.

Ms Tina Joemat-Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, responded that since this matter was currently before the Courts it was not possible to discuss it. She said that anyone who had knowledge or suspicions about corrupt activity should come forward and report this to the DAFF,  instead of running to the media.

Mr van Dalen also raised a question about the budget of the Marine Coastal Management (MCM), and the likely impact of moving this division to Pretoria.

The Minister said that certain functions of the MCM would move to Pretoria, and said that this was done to try to stop certain duplication of functions. National Government was based in Pretoria, so it made sense for all departments of national interest to be centralised also.

A Member raised concerns about the declining allocations to various departments.

Mr van Dalen asked why, since the last meeting, the DAFF website no longer reflected the senior vacancies.

Mr Sipho Ntombela, Chief Operations Officer, DAFF, noted that DAFF was appointing people to consider the information on the website as a temporary measure and was hoping that, in the longer term, all the information would be kept fully up to date. He added that the DAFF had prioritised the filling of these vacancies.

Mr van Dalen asked whether the DAFF was inflating the number of jobs that had been created. He also commented that he did not believe that some of the targets set by the Department were realistic.

The Minister responded that DAFF did indeed need realistic outcomes. She gave the example about the Walmart and Massmart merger, and the objections to it, saying that because Walmart was able to import cheaply from Vietnam and China, there had been concerns about the effects on local production. This Department would be very careful to guard against any deals that could negatively affect local farmers.

Mr van Dalen asked why so much money was spent on aquaculture.

Ms N Phaliso (ANC), wanted to know about the low rate of transformation in the Department, and the  unfilled vacancies in the Department.

These questions do not appear to have been answered.

Ms Phaliso also voiced concern about the three additional harbours that were mentioned, noting that they did not appear to be accompanied by any infrastructure upgrade.

Dr Shibu Rampedi, Deputy Director General: Forestry Development, DAFF, explained that the upgrading of harbours did not fall under the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) wondered whether the budget would be sufficient to cover all the projects and aims that were mentioned in the presentation.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane asked why cotton did not appear to be a priority crop.

Dr Modisane responded that the Department was in the process of implementing the cotton strategy.

Ms Pilusa-Mosoane wanted clarity on the establishment of rural fisheries in Limpopo.

Dr Rampedi noted that DAFF was looking into stocking dams and tanks in Limpopo, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape.

Mr B Bhanga (COPE), was impressed with the targets set out by the Department, but raised his concerns about the monitoring mechanisms. He noted that everyone had expressed differing views when the Deputy Minister was appointed, and asked him what role exactly he played.

Dr Mulder responded by saying that because he was a Member of an opposition party, the mandate given to him by his party was to critique the work of government. However, he was playing a fine balancing act. He added that there was no rule that he must attend every Committee meeting.

Mr Bhanga stated that there had been quite a strong emphasis on aquaculture. He asked why the Department was not investing in Marine studies.  Furthermore, he said the Department was not producing black Marine Biologists.

Mr Mankazana said that at present, there were no resources in the Fisheries unit for bursaries and skills development.

Minister’s remarks
Ms Joemat-Pettersson raised a few points after the discussion session. She noted that all plans must be fully implementable, and that there should be no idealistic targets. She also noted the need to spend effectively, saying that the practice of seeking rollovers must stop. She cited, as an example, the surplus that LandBank held. She also noted that the Department was in discussions with National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) on the labour laws that were needed to attract foreign investment. She believed that a reduction in electricity costs would benefit farmers. The Minister also revealed that the Department of Higher Education and Training was developing a Green Paper on all higher education colleges. She also outlined the fact that coastal communities would allocated fishing rights.

The Chairperson noted that some of the questions raised had not been fully answered, and said that follow-up questions would probably also be raised. In addition, the point raised by Dr Mulder also would warrant further debate. However, there was not enough time to address these issues at this meeting.

The Chairperson reminded the DAFF that the written responses to the questions raised on the 3rd quarter performance report had not yet been received. He also raised his concerns that several other Departmental reports, including one on Foot and Mouth inspections, had not been received.

Mr Abram noted that four of the questions he had asked were not answered. He predicted that most of the Department’s targets would not be achieved.

The meeting was adjourned.

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